Most of us would consider ourselves to be passionate about footy; some might happily claim ‘fanatical’ or even ‘tragic’ status. But how do you classify a person who devotes 37 years to the club he founded, 22 of those as President, property steward, recruiting officer and canteen manager, and someone also responsible for the establishment of a schoolboy competition that still runs today? And what if all that was achieved after a playing career in a state where Australian Football is not the dominant sport?
It’s difficult to find the right term to recognise the contributions made to Australian Football by John ‘Mac” McKeown, aged 87. But at Warners Bay Football Club, located 15 kilometres south-west of Newcastle on the edge of Lake Macquarie in NSW, his status as a club ‘legend’ is undisputed. The story of McKeown’s life is both intriguing and inspiring. Living through the Great Depression as a child in Western Australia, McKeown was forced to attend more than 20 primary schools as his father travelled around Australia in an attempt to find work. As a young adult, he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and was assigned to ground crew work before graduating to flying duties in 1942. He flew Lancaster bombers over Berlin at the tail end of World War II before moving back to Australia and embarking on a teaching career. (He had played Australian Football in Sydney before enlisting and continued to play on his return).